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February - March 2005


Fashion: Italians anticipate an Indian Summer

by Karishma Jasani

It is only January and yet the top Italian fashion houses are already proudly displaying their Spring-Summer collection along Via Monte Napoleone, the most famous and expensive fashion street in Milan. Each meticulously arranged window-display has Indian textiles, fabrics and jewels interspersed amongst its elegant garments and accessories, so much so, that you feel as if you are being transported to the designer fashion streets and boutiques of Mumbai or Delhi. The Indian craze seems to have firmly followed on from the Milan Fashion week held in October last year, which saw Giorgio Armani drawing inspiration from the days of the Raj, Roberto Cavalli soaking up the dazzle of Bollywood and even Alessandra Facchinetti adding a touch of Indian spice to her first collection for Gucci.

70 year old Armani, fondly referred to as the ‘global fashion’s elder Statesman’ is widely known for his passion for India. Just five years ago he famously toured “Pardes” in the comfort of a white Merc Limousine. Taken with the scenic landscape, and its rich history and customs, he was particularly enchanted by the spirit of Rajasthan and has now adopted the humble Indian customary gesture of ‘Namaste’, when bowing to his audiences. So inspired by India, he is even planning to set up his first chain of stores there, during the course of this coming year.

Armani’s ‘desi’ autumn 2004 catwalk drama, was offset with generous white drapes from the ceiling and energizing tabla beats, interspersed with soothing serenades of the sitar. Accompanying programme notes even featured the Emporio Armani logo inside a lotus flower with a typeface resembling the Devnagri script.

The Emporio Armani collection was an array of minimalist turbans, polo club jodhpurs, tight fitting bodices and jackets, long tunic pants and Nehru collars (an Armani favorite) reflecting a conservative ‘colonial chic’ of the start of the 20th century. Delicate light chiffons and silks with softly tailored layers of crushed ruffles in demure neutral colours such as biscuit, white and gray with the occasional drizzle of pinks and intense vivid blues, which Armani said reminded him of the Indian night sky. The evening designs also featured exquisite embroidery and meticulously cut crystal beading by authentic Indian craftsman.

In contrast, Cavalli’s, secondary line ‘Just Cavalli’, targeted a younger clientele. His catwalk backdrop was a jungle feel with large tropical plants and a wild soundtrack with tiger roars and trumpeting elephants. Boldly injecting Indian fashion into contemporary casuals he created wearable fusion feasts for the eye. The runway featured one-shoulder chiffon tops influenced by the sari, as well kaftan shirts, t-shirts dyed in chai, jodhpur-style jersey trousers, khaki shorts and denims and cotton cargo pants interwoven with silver threads and seams with dashes of Indian jewel like beading. Cavalli’s delights were enhanced with animal-inspired jewelry, from mischievous monkeys to the sensuous snake.

Facchinetti’s approach as a new designer for Gucci, was far more subtle with mere traces of the Indian look found for example, in her tassled woven skirts and her splashes of rich spicy colours such as hot red chilly and tantalizing turmeric.

Well with all of those sizzling designer clothes just around the seasonal corner, it is certainly time for me to start burning off those Christmas calories!

Photos by Corina and Dan Lecca

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